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How digital document workflows can accelerate business

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

The Future of Work is a hot topic right now. With the rapid advancement of technology like AI and machine learning, experts and analysts are speculating what business will look like in 10 or 20 years. But little light has been shed on how the transfer of information through documents – and how those documents are created, sent, interacted with and stored – will change. Email attachments and PDFs are still the most widely used way of sharing documents but for decades, businesses have chased more modern methods of sharing documents and the information they contain. Digital document workflows are quickly becoming the preferred method. Here’s why:

1. Why should companies incorporate digital document workflows into their everyday processes? 

Companies pay a steep price to do business, and the most valuable currency is time. With more than 200 touchpoints each month for sales teams and more than 15 per cent of the sales cycle spent on internal approvals, businesses can lose opportunities to close deals and build customer relationships by moving too slowly. By introducing digital document workflows into their business processes, companies can do more than accelerate sales cycles, approvals and onboarding: they can also standardise processes and ensure accuracy. And that means a better experience from end to end, for both companies and the customers they serve.

2. If businesses can increase efficiency and boost productivity by making their processes digital, why is there resistance?

Despite the move of many businesses to digital processes, industries like legal, manufacturing and finance typically express serious reservations about migrating to the cloud. Much of this resistance to migrate to a digital process is due to comfort with the status quo and concern over change management hurdles.  Still, as their customers demand a buying experience that prioritises elements like mobile, sharing content online and electronic signature, even the most tech-wary industries must consider how to deliver the kinds of digital interactions their customers experience throughout their workdays.

3. As the digital landscape becomes more complex, how can companies streamline their technology stack? 

Before a single solution is implemented, companies must identify a process that works efficiently for them and their customers. How do their buyers prefer to interact with them? How can companies use technology to accelerate the most critical elements of the sales process? Are there technology solutions that can be used for more than one purpose? Once an overall process is identified, companies can then collaborate across departments to select tech that can positively impact every part of the business. 

4. What are the most important elements of a tech stack that accelerates the document workflow process?

The most effective technology plays well with others. Solutions that integrate seamlessly with a company's existing technology investments, or that make it easy for companies eliminate inefficient processes, provide an opportunity to standardise and increase ease of use. The best tech stack also has a low threshold to use: each element must be easy to onboard, easy to adopt, and easy to use--both for end users and for customers. 

5. What's next for technology that focuses on document workflows?

The evolution of document workflows has just begun. Businesses that rely on decades-old technology like Microsoft Office are finding that even online versions of static documents make it difficult to collaborate, receive approvals and close business. The next generation of documents and document workflows include web-based architecture, facilitate real-time collaboration, and provide tools to standardise document creation and delivery from any device. 

 6. Why do traditional document workflows fail?

Traditional document workflows fail because, in today's collaborative, connected world, they actually make it harder to do business. Whether it’s an email attachment of a contract or a cloud-based folder of proposals created in static Word files, companies lose valuable time relying on disconnected methods of document workflows.

Lost time equates to lost money, especially in the sales industry. Traditional, static document workflows force sales teams to rely on other departments – like legal, marketing, and human resources – to receive the information they need to generate one accurate sales document. This slows down the sales process, introduces human error and makes version control an unnecessary challenge.

7. How can document workflows enable sales teams? What about HR and legal departments?

For some companies, document workflows have completely reinvented how sales teams functions. Research shows that sales reps only spend 33 per cent of their time actually selling. The remaining 67 per cent of their time is spent on proposal-building or quote creating – not generating additional leads or revenue.

With a unified document workflow solution, sales reps can curate content and data from across all departments. With a central location for information, sales teams can spend less time creating documents and more time focusing on actually selling. By streamlining and accelerating the document workflow process, companies can create and share branded and curated content while ensuring transparent engagement among document authors, collaborators and approvers.

This holds true across industries and departments. HR and legal departments can benefit in the same way: time is no longer spent creating documents and chasing approvals. The entire administrative side of the process can be eliminated via document workflows, leaving legal and HR professionals more time to complete the more complex elements of their jobs and increase their value to the company.

8. What’s the value of workflow?

The value of document workflow will only increase. Hundreds of documents flow in between departments every day, many of which are critical to businesses’ bottom line. Traditional document workflow processes involve multiple departments working with dozens of documents that are reviewed, edited or approved by hundreds of collaborators. This equates to thousands of documents created each year, with even more steps in a review process, that occupy millions of dollars in total man hours.

 A process like unified document workflows takes away this headache and hassle. It not only simplifies how a company handles its documents, but restores valuable time back into its employees’ days.

David Kerr, CEO, Octiv (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

A career entrepreneur with expertise in building and growing businesses, David Kerr brings 20+ years of experience in executive management, business development, marketing and sales as Octiv's CEO. David graduated from Princeton University.